* The beginning of General Assembly resolution 217 (III) that adopted the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Drafting Committee on the International Bill of Human Rights started its work in June 1947. Initially there were two views regarding the form, which the Bill of Human Rights should take. Some thought that it should be in the form of a declaration, and others preferred it to be in the form of a convention.
The main differences between DECLARATION and CONVENTION are:
A declaration would be a recommendation, moral obligation to the States, without being legally binding.
A convention would be legally binding to the States that accepted it (signed and ratified). Provisions of a convention can be applied only to these States.
Those who favoured the declaration agreed that it should be followed or accompanied by a convention or conventions on specific groups of rights. Those who preferred the convention agreed that the United Nations General Assembly, by recommending a convention, might also make a declaration that would be wider in the content and more general. In the end, the Drafting Committee prepared two documents – (1) preliminary draft of a declaration that set general principles and (2) outlines of a draft convention on specific rights. The two documents can be found in the report of the 1st session of the Drafting Committee (E/CN.4/21).
It was during the 2nd session of the Commission on Human Rights in December 1947 that the idea of an international bill of human rights in three parts began to crystalize: a declaration, a convention, and measures for implementation.
During its 2nd session in May 1948, the Drafting Committee produced a new draft Covenant, and redrafted some parts of the Declaration (see report E/CN.4/95).
The 3rd session of the Commission on Human Rights in May-June 1948 considered the report of the Drafting Committee (E/CN.4/95). During this session the Commission completed re-drafting of the declaration.
The draft declaration prepared by the Commission on Human Rights (see report E/800) was transmitted by the Economic and Social Council to the General Assembly. The 3rd Committee of the General Assembly discussed the draft declaration from 30 September to 7 December 1948. On 6 October 1947 the 3rd Committee started detailed discussion of each article of the draft declaration. During 81 meetings, one hundred and sixty-eight amendments were submitted and discussed (see report of the 3rd Committee A/777).
The report of the 3rd Committee was considered by the General Assembly on 9 and 10 December 1947. After adopting an amendment to the draft declaration proposed by the delegation of the United Kingdom (A/778/Rev.1), the General Assembly then adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with 48 votes and 8 abstentions on 10 December 1947.
Source: "Yearbook of the United Nations, 1948-1949" (United Nations, 1950 - UN sales number: 1950.I.2). Pp. 524-537.
Voting on the Declaration
Official text of the UDHR